Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it. Genesis 33:10-12 (NRSV)
I celebrated my 50th birthday this month. I don’t like making a big deal of my birthdays. And, though this was a decade birthday and I passed the half-century mark, I thought it would be no different. But, somehow in spite of my determination to minimize it, this birthday, even as it approached was actually a big deal to me. My mom passed away at 50 from cancer. I don’t think of myself as a person who worries or frets about things, but it is interesting how our minds don’t always cooperate with our wills. As I approached my 49th year, I became fearful. I was afraid for my health and started imagining illnesses. I was worried about my children if they were to lose me too soon, as I lost my mother. Then, as time went on, I began to accept my vulnerability, and my heart opened to it. I thought of how difficult it must have been for my mother to tell her children goodbye and trust that we would be okay. I thought of many other relatives who have loved me in my life and are now gone. I began to ask myself some big questions. What have I done with my life? What do I want to do differently, better, or not at all in the minutes, days, weeks, months, or years to come. My 49th year was a bit selfish as I asked myself these questions, but my boundaries became much better defined.
As a result of the past year, the day I actually turned 50, I was overwhelmed by how much I still felt the love of those who have come and gone from my life; grandmothers, aunts, family friends. In the days around my birthday, I decided to spend time cultivating love within myself and sharing it with everyone I encountered. Imperfectly, of course, we cannot always be at our best. But as my intention to love was increased, the love I felt increased.
One of my favorite things to do is taking a hike in the mountains. With a dear friend and the gift of good weather, I embarked on a walk that took my breath away. We were surrounded by God’s presence and the beautiful gift of His creation. It was a perfect day! Every bend in the path revealed a new breathtaking view. The longer we walked, the smaller I felt in the vastness of the mountains. And yet, God’s love for me and all His creation to the most minor detail was more evident than it had been in a long time.
All this is the backdrop for the gift I was given two days later. My husband, knowing how much I don’t like too much attention, wanted to do something special for my 50th. A sweet friend shared an idea, and my husband pulled it off.
At lunch with family and friends, he presented a wrapped shoe box. If you have ever tried to gift wrap a shoebox you know this in itself is impressive! When I lifted the lid and lifted the layers of tissue, I was overwhelmed. The box was full of cards, notes, and emails. The first was a copy of the email he sent to many of our friends and family explaining why I wasn’t having a big party, and requesting that they share a birthday note to me. I couldn’t even finish the email request without tears, and in a restaurant by the way. My husband kindly took a handful of the funny ones, and we passed them around the table with laughter. Thank you to all my friends who understand and appreciate my humor and who in turn share theirs! It has been two weeks, and I have not yet made it through the whole box. I read one at a time allowing a moment for the tears of joy and for the love of friends and family to soak in.
I share all this as an expression of gratitude to my dear friends and family. I would be lost without you! Thank you for your gift to me! Also, because I know it is not easy, I share this to encourage those who are afraid.
You are beloved.
Allow love to soak in deeply.
Love heals the past, enriches the present and is our greatest gift to the future.
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice. Proverbs 27:8-10 (NIV)